NEWMARKET – A York Region pilot program is providing children of low-income families access to recreation programs that they would otherwise not be able to participate in because of cost, isolation and transportation.
Funded by the National Child Benefit (NCB) and the Community Sport Opportunity Fund, PLAY (Positive Leisure Activities for Youth) is an initiative of the Regional Municipality of York in collaboration with its nine local municipal Parks and Recreation Departments.
“Feedback from parents has been extremely positive,” says York Regional Chair and CEO Bill Fisch. “Being able to enrol their children in recreation activities is a positive experience for parents, and their children’s participation helps build positive self-esteem, provides opportunity for physical development and encourages a healthy lifestyle.”
PLAY allows 4 to 12-year-old children of social assistance participants, social housing residents or low-income child care fee assistance recipients to take part in one seasonal recreation program three times a year. Programs include swimming lessons, dance classes and arts programs. A total of 142 children enrolled in Spring 2004 activities.
PLAY is one of York Region’s Family Strengthening Recreation Programs. Others include:
• Summer Recreation Day Camp program for children of social assistance participants and social housing residents (331 children participated in 2003)
• Overnight Recreation Camp for adolescent children of social housing residents (60 adolescents attended in 2003)
• Leadership Camp for adolescent children of eligible families (5 adolescents participated this year)
• After School Programs at four social housing sites
In 2000, one local municipal Parks and Recreation Department participated. Today three community agencies and all nine local municipalities are participating.
“York Region developed these Family Strengthening Recreation Programs based on recent research,” said Elizabeth Wagle, Director of Family and Children’s Services for York Region. “These studies indicated that providing quality, subsidized child care and recreation programs for children of social assistance families promotes attachment to the workforce by their parents; begins to address child poverty; can reduce dependency on social assistance, health and social services; and promotes healthy child development.”
The proof, however, is in the following comments York Region recently received from parents:
• “I am very thankful and would not be able to send my kids to programs otherwise,” said a mother of five. “My six-year-old son has Down Syndrome and has had a great time at hip hop (dance) with his sister.”
• “Thank you for caring so much,” said a mother whose child attended summer day camp.
• “I didn’t feel any discrimination being on (social) assistance,” said a sole support mom.
• “Thank you, thank you. Finally, I didn’t have to say no (to my child),” said a PLAY parent.
Eligible families served by York Region Housing and Residential Services, Social Assistance and Family and Children’s Services can access the PLAY program and the Region’s other Family Strengthening Recreation Programs. Contact Bernice Landry, Community Program Co-ordinator, at (905) 830-4444, Ext. 2024, or toll free at 1-877-464-9675, Ext. 2024 for more information.
For more information on The Regional Municipality of York and links to our nine area municipalities, please visit our Web site at www.region.york.on.ca
Contact: Wendy Lewis, Corporate Communications Services, York Region
- (905) 830-4444 or (416) 297-9696, ext. 1238
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